Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE: Volumes 4-5

In a place resembling Europe circa 1900, there lies a village named ‘Spirit.’ The children of the village are going missing without a trace, and terrified villagers swear it is the return of a 300 year old legend, concerning the child-snatching ‘Princess with the Locks of Gold.’

The four heroes of this time-and-dimension travelling fantasy saga, (Princess Sakura, the resolute Syaoran, amiable Fai and surly Kurogane) are warned not to go anywhere near the village. So what do they do? They head there as quickly as possible! But of course they must; if they are to have any hope of retrieving another of Sakura’s feathers (fragments of her memories and soul, capable of producing powerful and dangerous magic when placed in the wrong hands).

Volume 4 introduces the ‘Spirit’ plot arc. While neither the setting nor the legend are at all original, the story is effectively told and it moves at a nice pace. This volume is mostly made up of conversation and story-telling, explaining the setting and the legend. It also features some interesting flashbacks which help develop the relationship between Syaoran and Sakura. Volume 5, on the other hand, resolves the ‘Spirit’ arc with some excellent plot-twists, action scenes, and a faster pace. Towards the end of the volume, the next dimension is introduced; Japan in the Taishō era, and it looks to be very promising.

The main characters are rather cliché, but at least they are distinctive and well-realised. Attempts at humour involving silly antics happening to sullen Kurogane are very repetitive, but may well be enjoyed by younger readers. But the series’ great strength is the relationship between Sakura and Syaoran. It’s genuinely affecting, and is well-developed in these 2 volumes.

It’s firmly rooted in the fantasy genre, and is pitched at young teens and existing CLAMP fans. I’m in neither of those demographics, but still found these volumes enjoyable. This is due in no small part to the great presentation by publishers Tanoshimi, from the wonderful covers to the interesting translators’ notes. The notes in particular are vital when it comes to giving each new dimension a historical context. The artwork is pleasing, nothing particularly outstanding but the characters are visually well-designed. The authors obviously delight in putting their characters in new surroundings and clothing, and this does help keep things interesting.

Overall, then, Tsubasa is an enjoyable fantasy yarn, but in truth these volumes lacked any genuine drama or memorable scenes. Only the relationship between Syaoran and Sakura lifts these volumes above average.

6 / 10